Meet the Five People in Washington Most Important to the US Defense Budget

President Obama meets with Senate Democratic leaders in the Oval Office on Friday. (AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN

Want to get rid of sequestration? So do they. It’s just the “they” — yet again — aren’t who you probably expect.

Meet the five Washington officials pushing the hardest to replace the across-the-board defense cuts: President Barack Obama and the four top Senate Democrats.

When the weekend began, the Pentagon and US defense sector was pinning its hopes on a debt-ceiling plan by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would have given the Defense Department and other federal entities the ability to implement sequester cuts.

Over the weekend, however, the Collins plan faded. As the White House began negotiating solely with Senate leaders, Democrats suddenly injected an idea into the debt-ceiling talks that had been an afterthought: replacing sequestration.

Congressional Republicans, meantime, remain committed to post-sequestration funding levels for all federal agencies. Sources and lawmakers on the GOP side say they are willing to replace sequestration — but only with “real” deficit-paring measures not gimmicks.

For decades, the Republican Party was seen as the defense sector’s best ally in Washington. Suddenly, things have changed in a big way.

But perhaps it’s not that surprising.

After all, Senate Democratic Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois is the new chairman of the chamber’s Appropriations Defense subcommittee. Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington was heavily involved in pushing for a Boeing win in the Air Force’s decade-long push to buy new tanker aircraft.

And one has to expect Obama doesn’t want to set up the party’s next presidential candidate to get hit attacked by a GOP foe over the defense sequester cuts, first suggested by Obama’s senior staff.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett